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Lei era troppo indipendente


Single piece Signed Dated Titled

From the series Il luogo più pericoloso | The Most Dangerous Place



22 x 22 cm
8.66 x 9 in







Experimental printing on clay. Ceramic decals applied on the ready made dishes.

The sentences are connected to the way as the press and society refers to feminicides.

Together with her daughter Natalia Saurin, Silvia Levenson has created Il luogo più pericoloso (“The Most Dangerous Place”), an installation of ninety-four plates decorated with statements used to justify and minimize violence against women. According to a United Nations report from 2018, the most dangerous place for women is their own home. Two thirds of the women murdered in the world die at the hand of their partners, or other family members.

Photo by Marco Del Comune Photographer

1957 Buenos Aires, Argentina

Missing Identity

I was born in Buenos Aires in 1957.  I was part of a generation that fought to change a society that seemed to us terribly unjust. I was nineteen years old when, in 1976, the military gained power with a coup d’état, and in August of that year my daughter Natalia was born. She is now the same age as the youth born during the dictatorship, from whom the military government stole biological identities. With inconceivable cruelty, pregnant female prisoners were assassinated after having given birth, and newborns were illegally put up for adoption and treated as “war booty.”
What happened between 1976 and 1983, throughout the military dictatorship, changed my life as it did to the majority of Argentinians, and it certainly in u- enced my artwork. As an artist I have always been interested in interpersonal relationships and in the relationship between family and society. In this case, those who brought to conclusion the illegal adoptions had to keep the family secrets sealed, while counting on the complicity of those who chose not to look or search further.
“Revealing,” making visible that which is normally hidden or cannot be seen, is an integral part of my work. I use glass to represent this metaphor—a material we use daily to preserve foods and beverages, and in containers and bottles to preserve over time the integrity of fruits and vegetables. In my artworks I use glass to preserve the memory of persons and objects for future generations. I am not interested in the potential beauty of the glass material but in its function to preserve and protect. To me glass embodies the idea of resilience. Glass artifacts of thousands of years ago are retrieved today. Some are whole while others are in pieces, and they require time and dedication to be put together again, but in the end each artifact speaks to us of the person who created it and brings us back to that person’s time.
The story of the desaparecidos [disappeared] can also be pieced together again in its entirety once the endeavor of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo is concluded, and all those still missing in the head count will have responded. Until now, after extensive research, the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo have identi ed at least ve hundred cases of children stolen from their parents or born in captivity, and who were subsequently put up for adoption illegally. Interviewing doctors, nurses, lawyers, social workers, of cials, neighbors, and prisoners, the Grandmothers, during and after the revolution, continued to search for clues to nd their nieces and nephews. Throughout the years they created a campaign, inviting children born between 1976 and 1983 who had doubts on their identities, to do a DNA test. And thanks to them, today one hundred and thirty young people reclaimed a basic human right, the right to an identity.
The title of my exhibit—Identidad desaparecida [Missing Identity]—alludes to the emptiness that those children, who are now adults, left in their biological families and in society. It is an absence that weighs as much as a boulder in the history of Argentina. The military and their civil accomplices—doctors, priests, and corrupt of cials—wanted to make a generation and their descendants disappear from the face of the earth. Using institutionalized methods of terror, they tried to silence the mothers who every Thursday assembled in front of the government headquarters in Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, asking for the liberation of their disappeared children or the return of their bodies. Untamed, the mothers, who with the passing of time became grandmothers, moved the center of their protest to the desaparecidos nieces and nephews, starting the search.
The central installation of the exhibit—one hundred and thirty infant pieces of clothing in colored glass—are made with the technique of kiln casting that reproduces real textile items. I started to fabricate them in 2014 and completed them in 2018. My intention has been to add new baby clothes to the installation as other grandchildren recuperate their own identities. This work is a reminder of the resolved cases of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, referring to the one hundred and nineteen children who were able to learn the names of their real parents, the circumstances of their birth, and to meet their biological families. Even if the children of the desaparecidos are now adults, in my work I always speak about children, because the trauma originated in childhood, when the military, substituting itself as the democratic organs of Argentinian society, took on itself the right to decide on the life or death of the parents, negating every form of family identity.
According to the UN, having an identity is a fundamental human right that allows each individual the ability to enjoy all of their rights. Identity encom- passes the family name, the surname, date of birth, gender and nationality of an individual. The children born in captivity or abducted with their parents in Argentina during the dictatorship didn’t have this basic right. For this reason, I called the exhibition “Missing Identity.” In contrast with this, the title of the installation with the glass baby clothes is “Recovered Identity” because it alludes to them: to the one hundred thirty grandchildren who, thanks to the Abuelas de Plaza Mayo, now know who they are, who they parents were and their names.
Identidad desaparecida was born in Buenos Aires, city of my birth, and in a short time it took on a life of its own, becoming a long, itinerant project that for me transforms into a painful emotional voyage inside my personal history, in the time and space I have inhabited throughout the years since my forced departure from Argentina. At each stop the exhibit took on a particular variation, a differ- ent presentation, a different gaze. I have been inspired and supported by many people and, in the end, the piece became a choral project in which different forms of awareness and viewpoints met.
I have traveled with the exhibit from Buenos Aires to La Plata, from Montevideo to Washington, to Barcelona and Paris, Riga and Tallin, and in all these cities I had surprising encounters and created new relationships. In Buenos Aires, the exhibit was shown at the Casa de las Abuelas, inside the largest illegal deten- tion center in the region, the ex-Esma, a place in which many female prisoners gave birth. It was a very strong experience for me. My aunt Elsa Rabinovich de Levenson had also been imprisoned there, before being thrown in the river from a helicopter, with other prisoners, all of them desaparecidos. At Espacio de Arte Contemporaneo, in Montevideo, we organized a glass “sel e” workshop for chil- dren, with the idea of exploring the concept of identity. In Barcelona and Paris, some nieces and nephews who regained their identities thanks to the work of the Grandmothers were invited to share their stories. We spoke about human rights in the ex-ghetto of Riga, where I repeatedly saw my last name written among the names of the victims of the Holocaust.
The shows were never exhibits in the traditional sense; they were more like gather- ings on the same theme, in uenced each time by the subjectivities of the partici- pants. With my artwork I have tried to speak about the painful past, but with a gaze towards the future, illuminated by that search for truth and justice brought forth with dedication by the Grandmothers, for whom it is always a moment of great joy when a niece or nephew retrieves his/her biological identity, while in Argentina the event is celebrated through the sharing of a powerful emotion.
Identidad desaparecida continues to travel and with great satisfaction I continue to add small glass clothing. When I started producing the pieces three years ago, the resolved cases of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo were one hundred and nine and today they are one hundred and nineteen. Following the exhibition through its journey made me re ect on my identity as well, and on how art is not only a tool of knowledge, but also a tool of profound change. Other than being an aesthetic experience, art can contribute in transforming the view of the person looking and challenge certainties. Through this exhibit I had occasion to re ect on my personal history. I had left Argentina at the age of twenty-three with my partner and our children Emiliano and Natalia, and I have lived for the most of my life in Italy. And yet with my work I continually return to the part of my existence in Argentina that profoundly transformed me. It is as if I am trying to be a “balm for my wounds,” as Etty Hillesum wrote during World War II. Through my work I observe those wounds and I am aware that perhaps the only possible balm consists in not forgetting.
Finally, I would like to remember the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, creators of this authentic miracle. Unlike the model proposed by Western society, of a happiness that is allergic to old age and pain, where the elderly are more or less invisible, in Argentina the Abuelas de Plaza Mayo have had and continue to have a very important role within the society. Identidad desaparecida is also a tribute to these generous, tireless women, who have walked through hell, but are still here, with their sweet smiles, ghting for memory, truth and justice, contributing signi cantly in the paci cation process of Argentinean society and its history.

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Milan, Via Curtatone, 4

Established in 2015 and located in the fashionable Milan’s city center, Expowall Gallery is a fine-art gallery focused on the representation of contemporary Italian photographers who mostly worked on landscape and architectural photography. The aim of Expowall, founded by Pamela Campaner and Alberto Meomartini, is to present and promote the Italian contemp...

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